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Welcome to the Third World

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So, you thought your life was difficult.

Traffic jams every morning on your way to work, Starbucks way too crowded, Britney Spears sporting a shaved head – ah, the perils of life in the developed countries of the Western World. Try getting up every morning and going outside into the freezing cold, lighting a match, and placing it inside a stainless steel contraption called a "calefón" which will ignite after say, 20 seconds – during which time you cannot let go of the ignition knob. You have to do this every time you want warm water.

Sound barbaric? Welcome to Chile. A long, thin strip of land located in the Southern Hemisphere, Chile runs alongside Argentina, separated by a chain of mountains called "Los Andes" and facing the Pacific on its western shore.

Living in a Third World country such as Chile entails having a good sense of humor (especially every morning when you light the "calefón") and understanding that, as is the case in most Third World countries, you will experience things that definitely shake your foundations.

You will see major political scandals involving misused government funds and no one to account for it, public transportation systems that don't work when implemented and putting the very presidency in danger as a result, devastating effects of unplanned capitalism on the lower classes (the culture of low salaries and high consumption), and high rates of unemployment that increase delinquency, even though the news say otherwise. You might find a Starbucks in Santiago, the nation's capital, but a cup of hot coffee will probably cost you your firstborn.

Is it all bad? Well the "calefón" part is really bad. The rest is, so to speak, charming as you discover it along the way, and it even makes you ponder the facts of life – the important ones, that is.

Next time you're hyperventilating in a traffic jam, remember that you took a nice hot shower in the morning with instant hot water and that your job, which you probably hate, pays a lot better than mine. It even enabled you to buy a car, something I can't even dream of without giving my soul as collateral.

Count your blessings; after all, you're living in the First World.

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  • Ann Cardinal

    Thank you for this. I was looking out the window at the Vermont snowstorm on this April 12th, and feeling sorry for myself. But now I am going to appreciate the sound of the boiler humming to life, and be grateful its not a calefón. Stay warm.